Early Spring Fishing: BASS

By Todd Reed

April cold water bass fishing can be one of the most challenging times of the year to follow and catch these fish.  However, if you study the weather, choose the correct baits, and know where to begin looking for bass you will be one up on the average angler.

During the spring season anglers need to really hone in on the weather and patterns that are developing.  If you are an angler that can pick and choose your days to fish, this really hits home with you. If you are a weekend guy that typically just fishes on Saturday and Sundays then you don’t really have much of a choice.  However, paying close attention to the weather may help you choose what weekend day will give you the advantage over the fish. Weather plays more of a role in the early spring than any other time during the year. Before we study the weather, let’s first consider what the bass are going through in the month of April.  The northern part of the state some bass might still be looking up at a sheet of ice, while the bass in the southern counties have seen that beautiful sunshine for several weeks. As readers we must think of Iowa as a huge area that gets a strong winter in the north but typically a mild winter in the south. From the time the ice melts off the lakes or rivers the ecosystem of the bass gets a fresh new start.  Throughout the winter months these fish, often at the top of the food chain in lakes have been living on microorganisms and small baitfish. They have been pretty lethargic and movement hasn’t been a high priority. Once that ice melts off the system comes alive. Almost immediately plant life, including algae starts to grow, this gives the small insects a boost in food, which gives the small baitfish a boost of nutrients, which carries all the way up to the bass.  It’s like a party that everyone got invited to, and it’s a free buffet! Once the sun gets out and the water starts to warm the world a bass gets put into gear once again. Targeting those warming trends before another Iowa cold front is the key to early spring success. If you are seeing several days in a row with warming temperatures, especially the temperatures at night, it is time to get to the lake. Sunshine is also a piece of the puzzle, the more the better in the month of April.  Other items that Mother Nature can throw at us include wind, barometric pressure swings and rainstorms. Wind is actually your friend in April, of course if it is really bad and you can’t control your boat or casts then it is pretty hard to catch fish. However, if a gentle 10-15mph wind is happening it is actually stirring up the lake and warming it up, thus helping the ecosystem once again to rejuvenate itself. With the wind and storm systems there is always a barometric pressure shift.  Most anglers have heard of the saying, “if the wind is from the east, fishing is the least”. There is some truth to that for sure. Typically when the wind is out of the east it is pushing in a high-pressure system to your area. High pressure will negatively affect fish, so yes that old saying definitely has some truth to it. Can you still catch fish during an easy wind, of course, but if the day before or the day after the wind is different, choose the other day if you only have to fish.  As you can see, the springtime of the year is very busy with a lot of variables, study them, look for those patterns and choose wisely if you only have a few days to fish. It could be the difference from a lot of head scratching to a lot of hook setting!

Springtime bass fishing can bring out the best and biggest of the year.  It is definitely a time to get out there and give it your all. Unfortunately it is the time of year that many different baits are needed to be consistent in this early part of the year.  I wish I could tell you the one perfect bait for a particular day but there just isn’t one. I have a couple rules of thumbs that I do stick with this time of year. I break it down into two different groupings; the nice and perfect days of April and the tough conditions of April.  When the conditions are tough a couple baits seem to shine during the month of April. One is a wacky-rigged stickbait. This bait is a slow moving bait that will trick the weariest of bass. Another similar bait is a 4-inch worm on a shaky-head jig. Both of these can be fished very slowly and offers the bass a small snack while the weather straightens up.  On those perfect April days of warmth and sunshine a few different baits are needed. The first is a spinnerbait or chatterbait. These baits replicate the look of fleeing baitfish; just what the bass wants this time of year. Shallow running crankbaits or jerkbaits are also very good choices. Be sure to experiment around with speed and pauses while you bring back your jerkbait and crankbaits.  Another key bait during the month of April is a jig and trailer. This bait hasn’t changed since it was invented, and there is a reason why, it just works. In the spring I will rig the trailer to maximize the length of the overall bait, hoping for that giant bass to pick it out and eat it. This is by far my best “big bass” bait and it really produces during the springtime. Color options for the above mentioned baits are endless.  All anglers seem to have their proven colors; those are the ones to start with. If those aren’t working go with green pumpkin worms/stickbaits, shad colored spinnerbaits and chatterbaits, bluegill colored crankbaits and a black and blue jig. Of course water clarity should be taken into consideration, dirty water needs darker colors like black and chartreuse, while clear water bass will prefer natural browns, whites, and orange colors.  Spring is the time of the year where a simple change in color or a slower/faster retrieve will cause the fish to bite. Change things up to have more bass coming your way in the month of April.

Locations during the month of April can also be a direct result of the current weather pattern.  On those nice warming days bass will swim towards the shallows looking for the meal, while on those cold dreary cold front days, they will be hanging around the drop-offs and points near deeper water.  The warmer the weather, the warmer the water temperatures, this is what will bring the big bass shallow. Be ready, as they can be shallower than most boats can float. Make long casts and be prepared for the fight of the year.

Spring always holds a lot of anticipation for bass anglers.  Whether you enjoy a few hours on the lake, or you are preparing for your first bass tournament of the year these tips and tactics will hopefully get you thinking about the bass and how Mother Nature always plays her part in a day of fishing.  Enjoy the spring weather, be safe and practice CPR (Catch-Photo-Release) with those nice spring bass.